Access points concern Highway 23 planners

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/29/96.

The prospect of having Highway 23 upgraded to a four-lane highway is receiving a lot of support from communities along its route Charlene Zimmer, SRF consultant, informed the Highway 23 Steering Committee last week in Paynesville that meetings were held in Spicer, Willmar and Paynesville. In all cases, the project is receiving a lot of support.

ãPaynesville is looking at a bypass and discussing feasible alternatives,ä Zimmer said. The route of the highway could become a constitutional issue. The state constitution requires that Highway 23 serve Paynesville. If a bypass is built, the new route must touch the city limits, or the city has the right to reject the project.

ãThe big issue at Spicer is how will a four-lane highway affect the bicycle/ pedestrian trail. There is a lot of activity on the trail and people are concerned about getting across Highway 23 to reach the trail or the ball diamonds. Someone at the Spicer meeting had brought up the idea of an underpass so people wouldnât need to cross the highway,ä Zimmer said.

No matter which community they discussed, the matter of access management came up again and again. In a two-mile stretch of Highway 23 between County Road 123 and County Road 12 there are 21 access points (driveways/side roads). Another example is that in Paynesville, residential and commercial driveways and intersecting roadways are in close proximity to one another.

Each access point is a potential turning movement that can slow through traffic or be a potential accident. On a map of the area, Jeannie Ross, CRF, pointed out all the access points along Highway 23. Ross stressed the need to consolidate the number of access points to increase efficiency and preserve the safety and speed of traffic on the highway. General access issues along Highway 23 include the number of access points, higher speeds than in urban areas; difficulty in providing turning lanes if access points are not concentrated; skewed access points are a safety concern due to poor sight distances and turning radius (example, Minnie Street intersection east of Paynesville on Highway 23); and reduced sight distances create safety concerns where there are access points at areas with steep slopes, sharp curves and /or other obstructions.

Zimmer also stressed the need for communities to think of corridor preservation to protect the right-of-ways for planned highway improvements.

Dave Solsrud of the Brainerd MnDOT office, brought the committee up-to-date on the Highway 23 project from Waite Park to Cold Spring. Work will begin next summer on the first stretch of he project from Waite Park to I-94. ãThe project through Rockville to Cold Spring is in Phase II-historic research,ä Solsrud said. ãThat is when shovel test holes are done looking for artifacts.ãEverything is pretty much on track. The route through Rockville is still a major issue.ä

Keith Hoiseth asked the question, how wide is a four-lane highway? Solsrud said four lanes consists of 65-feet from curb to curb with no median. Highway 23 through Paynesville is presently 55 feet wide from curb to curb.

Zimmer said at the next steering committee meeting, the group will talk about by-pass alternatives and access management.

Constitutional trunk highway routes
In 1920, a Minnesota constitutional amendment was adopted designating Constitutional Trunk Highway routes numbered 1 to 70. The amendment guarantees the cities on the route highway access, according to Zimmer.

Highways in the area include Highway 4: running from the Iowa border to International Falls, affording Jackson, Windom, to Olivia, Willmar, Paynesville, Sauk Centre, Wadena, Park Rapids, Itasca State Park, to International Falls and intervening and adjacent communities a reasonable means of communication. Highway 23: beginning at a point on Highway 4 at Paynesville and extending in a northeasterly direction through Richmond, Cold Spring, Rockville, and Waite Park to west of St. Cloud.

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